BECKLEY, W.Va. — An Ohio man was sentenced Thursday to spend 11 to 55 years in prison after driving drunk and causing four deaths in a 2016 wrong-way crash on the West Virginia Turnpike.
Cory Sheward, 38, of Tiffin, Ohio, apologized to the more than two dozen family members of the victims who attended the sentencing hearing in Raleigh County Circuit Court.
“He made no excuses. He had no excuses for it,” Raleigh County Assistant Prosecutor Tom MacAulay told MetroNews. “He admitted to drinking and got behind the wheel and didn’t realize that such a thing could happen.”
Sheward was drunk when he crossed the median on Interstate 77 in the early morning hours of March 28, 2016, and continued heading south in the northbound lanes. A few miles later, north of the Ghent Toll Plaza, his pickup truck collided with an SUV, killing four of the eight people in the vehicle.
The victims—Maxine Wade, 27, Carlisa Crowell, 29, Tahja Freeman, 9, and Aubrey Willoughby, 6, all from Grove City, Ohio—were part of a group returning from a Disney World vacation.
MacAulay said the charges were the first time Sheward had been charged with DUI.
“That’s very unusual. I’ve been handling DUI cases for 28 years and normally when something like this happens it’s someone with a substance abuse or alcohol problem,” MacAulay said.
Sheward pleaded guilty in October to three counts of DUI with death and one count of DUI causing serious bodily injury. Raleigh County Circuit Judge Robert Burnside sentenced him to the maximum 3 to 15 years in prison on the three DUI with death counts and 2 to 10 on the DUI injury count. He ordered the sentences to be served consecutively. Burnside also fined Sheward the maximum $12,000 and ordered him to pay restitution to the families for funeral expenses, which is expected to total more than $40,000.
MacAulay said he’s glad DUI-related crimes now carry more prison time.
“The legislature has done well. In 2015, they changed the law to making seriously bodily injury a felony and greatly increased the penalties for DUI with death,” he said.
Sheward’s father, Vernon Sheward, posted a message on Facebook shortly after the crash in March 2016:
“There is nothing I can say or do that will reverse the actions of what happened with my son Cory, and the family of the car that he hit. I love my son regardless of what has happened, and that will never change. However, I do not condone, or will in anyway try to justify what has happened. I do not know why he did what he did and it was selfish and foolish, and now he has to live with the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life.”